Outsourcing Personal Information


    Law firm White & Case and research firm Ponemon Institute did an interesting survey recently, which you can read here.

    The survey evaluates "Americans’ Perceptions about Outsourcing Personal Information." What I find compelling is how mixed our attitudes are in the US towards offshoring.

    For example, respondents answered a question: Should there be US regulations to make companies responsible for ensuring that offshore companies have adequate security and privacy safeguards in place prior to outsourcing your personal information? A resounding 63% said yes.

    Yet, when asked whether it was important for US companies to conduct audits of offshore companies to ensure they were taking sufficient steps to safeguard our personal information, only 50% said it was very important or important. Almost the same number said it wasn’t important or that it was irrelevant.

    Say what? We think companies doing the offshoring sort of have a responsibility to make sure the vendors they work with follow the privacy policies they’ve set up. Yet it’s even more important that Congress get into the act and write some new laws about it? How this country ever voted in a Republican Congress and a Republican president I do not understand.

    And what kind of data do you think we’re most concerned about sharing with an offshore vendor? Social security information maybe? Credit card account numbers? Nope. It’s patient health information. Suddenly, if somebody in Mexico knows we’ve had our hemorrhoids treated, there oughta be a law.

    Of course, we don’t want to pay to make sure our personal information stays in the US. A vast 73% of respondents said they would not be willing to pay more to stop offshoring. A pitiful 10% said they would be willing to pay more.

    The survey also ranked what countries we trust the most and the least, based on multiple factors. Canada comes in first, followed by Ireland and India. These are the nations we most trust to have at our personal information. I’m surprised India is in there, considering the intensity of the complaints about the country that I hear from ordinary folks who have dealt with a customer service or tech support issue.

    Who comes in least trusted? The Philippines. Huh? Isn’t that the country that has such a tight affinity with Americans culturally and in matters of language? Haiti comes in second and Mexico comes in third. I think this may simply be a result of the backlash Latin Americans have experienced recently around immigration issues.

    In the final analysis, what this survey tells me is that the US will never be comfortable with the idea of offshoring and that we trust our government to take care of the problem for us — as long as it doesn’t somehow get charged back to us (yeah, right).

    What we should really be up in arms about is the fact that companies here in the US have done such a dismal job of protecting our personal data. That’s where the real breaches are surfacing — in goofy ways. My fellow Americans, let’s start a shareholder revolt that requires a buck to be reduced out of the CEO’s salary and bonus every single time somebody’s personal information is illicitly made public through some screwball lack of attention to the details. If it’s the government that’s responsible (like in the case of the theft of information on 26.5 million vets), let’s take it out of Bush’s budget for personal security. Maybe that’ll help get them focused on the bigger picture.


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